The leading event for the UK inbound and outbound meetings industry, The Meetings Show, met with its advisory board in October to discuss the future of the show and the future of events.
The advisory board members, who represent UK and international destinations, venues, event planners and industry consultants, have revealed what they think will be the biggest trends in the industry in 2019.
With the future of Brexit still very much uncertain, the UK meetings and events industry needs to focus on defining and promoting its USPs to demonstrate why Great Britain is still a great place to do business.
Laurie Scott, head of conventions & events at Visit Aberdeenshire, is focusing on the positives of Brexit: “Obviously Brexit is inevitable but looking at the potential positives the exchange rate of the pound means that Britain is becoming an excellent value destination for conferences and events.”
London & Partners’ head of tourism, conventions & major events, Tracy Halliwell, says UK destinations may need to refocus their attentions on business from outside of Europe. She says: “We have to understand much more about long-haul markets than perhaps European markets, as well as thinking about international vs domestic – it’s thinking about where business is coming from and how we’re going to react to that.”
Intellectual capital is also set to be a key influencer in destination choice and is an opportunity for the UK to stand out amongst its competitors. Sally Greenhill, consultant for The Right Solution, says: “There’s lots of exciting stuff in terms of life sciences and medical research that takes place here, which offers great opportunities for us to showcase the UK.”
The success of an event is measured just as much by delegate satisfaction as it is profit or loss and putting the delegate experience first is going to be a priority for event organisers in 2019.
MICE marketing specialist Patrick Delaney, director of SoolNua, says we need to stop thinking about B2B and B2C as different markets: “I think the real disruptor is that it should be H2H: human to human. We have to get back to understanding the power of human connections, the power of the live event – the power of making that true connection that only comes when people actually treat each other as human beings. We need to look at what people’s needs are, see how they can be met, and deliver on that.”
Leigh Cowlishaw, director of proposition – accommodation and meetings at Capita Travel and Events, agrees that event organisers should be putting the delegate first: “It’s important to understand why delegates are coming to your meetings and really driving through the data, to be able to provide you with the intelligence to make informed decisions when planning events.”
Tracy Halliwell adds: “I think another challenge happening in the industry is the multigenerational thing: meetings and events now have up to four different generations attending. How do you plan your event to meet the expectations of those four different types of people who will all expect different content and different formats? I think that’s quite challenging.”
For The Meetings Show, delegate engagement will also be a key focus in 2019. David Chapple, group event director for the show, says: “The Meetings Show 2019 will be all about focusing on our audience, more so than ever before. We are currently looking at our education programme and how we can make that as relevant and engaging as possible for attendees, both through the content itself and how that’s delivered. Along with all the other exiting developments we have planned, it’s shaping up to be our best event to date.”
Technology specifically designed for meetings and events is ever-evolving and is changing the face of the industry as we know it.
Rather than be concerned by the idea of technology replacing human interaction, meetings and events professionals should be looking at how it can enhance and support what they do.
Patrick Delaney says: “In 2019 we need to think about more connectivity and more experiences. What does that mean in terms of the practical way it manifests itself? I think technology can be used to connect people and provide genuine experiences – experiences that will leave a delegate saying ‘you know something, that had an impact on me, it emotionally engaged me, it intellectually engaged me – it changed me in some way.’ The continuation of this will also see personal and professional mixing to deliver an end result.”
Executive director of the HBAA, Juliet Price, thinks that technology will also change the way meetings are organised, for the better. She says: “One of the things that we are seeing is the use of online platforms for booking small meetings. It’s not a threat to the industry; we should look upon it as a positive move because it means that agencies, corporate planners and venues themselves will have more time to deal with the larger events that do need a lot more care and attention.”
The seventh edition of The Meetings Show will take place on Wednesday 26 and Thursday 27 June 2019 at Olympia London.
For more information about The Meetings Show, visit www.themeetingsshow.com.